Multiple coronavirus restrictions to be lifted in North Rhine-Westphalia
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is gearing up for the complete revocation of coronavirus contact restrictions, as infection rates continue to remain low in the state.
No more coronavirus contact restrictions in North Rhine-Westphalia
On Wednesday, the health minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU), confirmed that coronavirus restrictions will be completely lifted in most regions of the state on Friday, July 9. This is the last stage (dubbed "Opening Stage Zero") of a four-step plan to reopen society within the state.
The revocation of all contact restrictions will automatically apply for all areas within the state that have a seven-day incidence rate of 10 or below - that is, an area that has a maximum of 10 new infections every seven days. Currently, this includes cities like Dortmund, Essen, Bonn, Duisburg and Bielefeld. However, in the cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf, the seven-day incidence rate remains between 10 and 35 and as such the cities will stay in “Opening Stage 1,” in which tighter restrictions are still in place.
Which restrictions have been lifted?
Areas within the state that go into Opening Stage Zero will not face any contact restrictions in public life. Major events like street parties, football matches and festivals will all be allowed to take place with up to 25.000 attendants, though anyone wishing to attend will be obliged to show a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery. At such events, masks and social distancing will be recommended, but not required. Similarly, contact details are no longer required to be taken in establishments such as restaurants, hotels and bars.
The mask requirement will still be upheld in certain areas though, and will still have to be worn on public transport, in shops, taxis, schools and when visiting the doctor. People who work closely with customers, such as waiters or hairdressers, will also either have to wear a mask or show a negative test.
Laumann justified the decision to revoke the state’s coronavirus measures with the fact that the number of infections and hospitalisations has fallen significantly and still continue to do so, while also hinting that measures might return should infections start to rise. “The new Corona Protection Ordinance takes into account the sustained positive developments in all relevant pandemic figures in recent weeks. For many areas of life, it means the return to normality,” he said. “However, we open with a sense of proportion and have set up a safety net to which we will fall back on in the event of an increasing incidence. In this way, we can react quickly to another increase in the number of infections.”
German politician criticises return to normality
SPD politician Karl Lauterbach criticised the decision to drop restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus. “We are in a phase in which the number of cases is rising again and vaccination progress is slowing,” he said. “The timing of the easing surprised me, I would have found a later point in time.” Lauterbach warned that the easing of coronavirus measures increases the risk of infections shooting up in the autumn, and urged people to wear their masks and adhere to social distancing.
News of North Rhine-Westphalia’s reopening comes just after it has been reported that the particularly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus has become the dominant strain in Germany. Laumann has appealed to people in the state to get vaccinated, warning “the fourth wave will come our way.”